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Judge Rules Wayne Man Can Keep His Chickens

Victor Alfieri is not violating town law by keeping three hens on his property for personal use.

A municipal court judge ruled Thursday that Victor Alfieri is not guilty of violating a town law by keeping three hens on his property.

Judge Lawrence Katz's ruling represents a months-long battle between Alfieri and town officials over the rights of residents to keep hens on private property.

“This whole thing has been very stressful for my wife and I,” said Alfieri, an advocate of sustainability. “I’m glad it’s over. It’s a great victory for health and sustainability.”

Alfieri has kept three hens on his property for about three years. The hens live in a fenced-in chicken run and coop in his backyard. 

“Raising backyard hens has improved my life and it’s just wonderful now that all Wayne residents can start to enjoy the same benefits,” Alfieri said.

Alfieri after town planner John Szabo issued Alfieri a summons earlier this year for keeping the hens on his property. The hens each lay 300 eggs a year. Alfieri does not sell the eggs nor does he use the hens for breeding.

Alfieri argued that because the hens are not being used to make a profit, the ordinance governing the keeping of hens on private property does not apply to him. He contended that the law applies to commercial agricultural uses.

Katz agreed.

Alfieri has previously said that hens are a vital part of the sustainable living movement. He earlier this year that would've changed the minimum lot size required for residents to own hens from 2 acres to a quarter of an acre. The council on the ordinance. Alfieri owns about a quarter of an acre of land. He’s been trying to get the law changed for years. 

Alfieri said town officials called him a “lawbreaker” for owning the hens.

“Wayne town officials were interpreting the chicken law incorrectly, enforcing a law that does not exist and I proved it in court,” Alfieri said. “Raising chickens in Wayne is not illegal and never was.”

Alfieri owns the hens and has several small gardens on his property. He harvests thousands of pounds of produce from them every year. He also runs a Web site where he tries to educate and encourage others to live more sustainable lives. 

“I will continue to fight and help other chicken owners in other towns in their pursuit in changing their laws,” Alfieri said.

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

bett June 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Very good VJ I am happy to see that you and many others still believe that America is the land of the free and we still have rights under the constitution!
Justice June 29, 2012 at 05:33 PM
We need a good class action. Victor is not the only one.
Stephanie S June 29, 2012 at 09:19 PM
With times being as hard as they are, is it so wrong to provide your own food? People are ridiculous, how is it selfish to be self-sufficient? Do we forget that there were times that everyone had hens on their property?
Al Scala June 29, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Victor.....you won because you did nothing wrong. You were never in violation of any ordinance. Our illustrious Councilmen like Jimenez and Schwiegart who made snide comments and stupid jokes, are the ones who look stupid now. Thankfully, Judge Katz 's ruling was unbiased, and in keeping with the law. It's nice to know that good guys do win sometimes.
Justice June 30, 2012 at 01:48 AM
dude, do you know how to use your spell check?
Jessica Brody June 30, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Councilman Joe Schweighardt said the township cited Alfieri twicw in the past two years for having chickens on his property. "For years he just did what he wanted," Schweighardt said. Over the past two years the many articles and posts written by Victor Alfieri did reflect what he wanted to do, and that was to abide by the law. During the same period it also exposed our council members and how far they are willing to go to discredit a law abiding citizen. Not just Victor, but anyone that the council disagrees with. The stench of the town council makes Victor's chickens smell like Chanel No.5.
Justice June 30, 2012 at 10:21 AM
Jessica, well said.
Justice June 30, 2012 at 11:27 AM
School Bus Monitor who was bullied in upstate has become a celebrity. The council has acted worse than any of the students on that bus. Does anyone have video of some of the many bully sessions in order that they can also be UTube ?
Donatello Nobatti June 30, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Thanks, Victor. I really want to believe this! But it sounds too good to be true in a town that charges a fee for everything...You need a permit from the town to put up a shed, but not to have chickens? Congratulations on your hard-fought victory.
Nose Wayne June 30, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Justice,What side show do you want to see. Channel 77 shows reruns of the last council meeting. Might want to talk to Tim Collins who runs the cameras and tapes the meetings Call 694-1800 Ext. 3315 and ask him.
Claire Furber July 01, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Congratulations Victor !!! Thank you Judge Katz.
NotRealName July 01, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Yes you probably should move out of Wayne, taxes are too high, but you're going to be hard pressed to find a town that bans chickens. Chickens are a sign that more people care about eating healthy and the state of our food supply in America needs major improvement.
NotRealName July 01, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Diane, how is a judge who deals with the facts being bribed? The law is clearly written and his decision reflected that. You're life must be truly sad if its ruined by 3 properly cared for chickens. And what a poor excuse for not getting involved with politics, the people that complain the loudest are usually the ones that do the least.
NotRealName July 01, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Thank you fboy66 a voice of reason. People forget their roots and what Wayne was like not too long ago (and much nicer then I might add). Our grandparents would get a good laugh to hear that all this anguish is over 3 chickens.
NotRealName July 01, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Wayne resident 2 I thought you were moving out of Wayne. I've lived here my whole life also and chickens have been here the whole time too. Why do chickens bother you so much? I just don't get it, we're talking about 3 chickens, not a whole flock.
NotRealName July 01, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Dory, I remember the billy goat man. I remember cows in a pasture on Valley Road and Alps Road. I remember sheep living in the yard at the Victorian house on the corner of Alps Road and Ratzer Road. I remember horses living on a small lot on Alps Road. Neighbors raised chickens, grew their own vegetables, etc Just recently there was a rooster that would peck on the office door where I worked (we even named him). I miss those days.
NotRealName July 01, 2012 at 01:49 AM
I agree with you Resident Kelly. A truce would be great to see, good for the soul not to harbor resentment. Life is to short.
John July 03, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Wow! A little chicken controversy has once again energized the anti-Wayne council Internet lurkers (not all, just the usual suspects). They ought to file petitions for election so they can straighten up the present council members (do they hate all of them, or just the Republicans)? My neighbor tried and chicken & rooster thing a few years ago, and with a gentle reminder that chicken feed attracted vermin and roosters had the bad habit of unleashing their cock-a-doodle do's at various times of the day & night, he removed them Not quite the kind of farming activity that is appropriate for a 1/3 acre residential property. I suggest that all the advocates of this kind of activity have their neighbors set up shop next to them and try it out. And perhaps a wind turbine could reduce their electric bill.
Nose Wayne July 03, 2012 at 07:02 PM
John, Who do you suspect ?
Al Scala July 03, 2012 at 07:15 PM
John.....The bottom line here is Victor Alfieri has done nothing wrong. In accordance with the ordinance, he is within the law.,Whether you favor that or not, the Judge ruled in his favor. I find it interesting that you made no comment on the arrogance, obnoxiousness and stupidity of some of our Councilman regarding their snide comments. Do we dislike the Councilmen? Personally, no! We just want them out because of their attitude towards the public and in my opinion, their incompetence! By the way John, I'm a Republican. I don't want them out because they're Republicans. I want them out because they're incompetent and do not represent ALL the people. Only a chosen few! I suggest maybe you talk to your friends on the Council and suggest they work on a new ordinance. Oh.. and about the wind turbine, please tell your friends to stop wasting our taxpayers money on frivoulous litigation.
Nose Wayne July 03, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Latest Count,Wayne Residents-2 Wayne Council-0, Going into extra innings!!!!!
Bill July 03, 2012 at 11:13 PM
John, I find it difficult to understand your comments when any civilized person would find the behavior of Wayne council to be totally inappropriate, bigoted, prejudiced, racist and juvenile. It doesn't stop at the condescending, sarcastic tones or the texting during meetings; but continues to the total disregard of other religious persuasions that are part of Wayne citizenry, such as the physical motion of the sign of the cross. If that action had occurred during a shareholder's board meeting, this councilman would be "crucified", no pun intended. The council is their own old boys network, with the females behaving worse than the males. The sole democrat is really a republican with a different title. It is intolerable and indecent that this council continues in this manner.
Justice July 03, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Nose, I knew there was something i liked about you. Glad to read that you help people through your Union activities. It was the Unions that stopped the tyranny of the Industrialists. I belonged to 1262 and CWA in a far distant past. They helped keep the salaries and benefits fair. Have you tried to unionize the clerks at 475? Maybe the attitude would be humbled? God Bless You Nose.
Nose Wayne July 04, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Justice, Yes they are unionized.Getting NOSE raise this year,they have a reason not to be humbled. Most salaries are between 10 and 50 thousand.You have to work for 30+ years to get to the high end number if you live that long. Police and Administration get all the raises that you will not see published.NOSE alot that retired because of the politics.
Justice July 04, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Nose, I did not know that. Which local? The same as the state workers? Are they all unionized or just some? Is the administration with a different union or not at all? Are all clerical municipal workers in the state unionized? Where can I find that info? Interesting.
Rob Burke July 04, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Bizarre that you would suggest that a man who was wrongfully accused of breaking the law should move away. Outrageous to suppose that despite abiding by the law, that an honest man should be run out of town for speaking his mind. Shameful. Perhaps those who wrongfully attack should apologize. And perhaps the lawmakers should now make laws, rather than baseless insults. Regulate this issue in a reasonable way and move on, deliberately and with all due haste.
Rob Burke July 04, 2012 at 04:45 AM
A wind turbine would certainly reduce electric bills, but what of it? Perhaps you should suggest that everyone abide by the law. I would support that notion, like motherhood and apple pie. It's preposterous that you and a few others suggest that those of us who abide by the law, somehow are bad people who do bad things. Perhaps you accuse rape victims of 'bringing it on themselves' by being attractive. The rule of law should matter. If you don't like the outcome, go to Trenton and change the law if you can. That's what I did.
Joe videodummy July 04, 2012 at 06:48 AM
chicken feed attracts vermin, and chickens emit a fowl oder ? Not any more than open trash cans on pick-up days, or school dumpsters, shopping centers, apartment buildings, lakes, parks, pets, leaky cellers, detached garages and sheds, wood piles, pools, decks, cabanas, and dozens of other places. It's all about how you manage your own environment that makes the difference. The town cannot comment on these issues when they refuse to pick-up dead deer and animal carcases from our streets and roadways, flush our sewer drains regulary, or operate our sewer water/solid waste facility in lower Wayne. Chicken and pigeon coops have always existed in town, not as much now as 20-30 years ago, but they have always been a part of this township.
jim July 06, 2012 at 07:53 PM
All this over some chickens. Citizens of Wayne are missing the big picture. NJ is nearly bankrupt, the palce is rediculous with property taxes, insurance and every other government malfeasance and 3 chickens creates this kind of hoopla? Seriously - wake up!
Resident Kelly July 06, 2012 at 07:59 PM
What about the even BIGGER picture that this town was enforcing a law that does not exist?!

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